At the onset of 2017, the healthcare industry was antsy as it awaited legislation changes from the new administration. Would we say goodbye to the ACA? Would MACRA and CMS regulations send payment models into a frenzy? Would providers manage to reduce costs without a pandemonium of mergers? Would new medtech spice up our digital lives?
By the end of 2017, we had witnessed the survival of Obamacare, bold changes to payment methods, merger mayhem among providers, a barrage of patient-engagement tools, APIs and cloud products gaining speed, widespread telemedicine and digital health, a dramatic rise in the cost of drugs, and a cornucopia of policy changes.
As we enter 2018, many speculate that it will be a year of major disruption for the healthcare industry. Much is still left up in the air, even as experts have made their top line predictions. Can the ACA withstand another year under the Trump administration? Will artificial intelligence become employee of the month? Can robots and machine learning find love in the physician’s heart? Will out-of-pocket expenditure abate and at last return integrity to our bank accounts? How will the opioid crisis affect different players in the industry?
Whilst these questions may keep us on our feet throughout the year, with a little help from our in-house palm reader, we’ve predicted 18 trends that’ll keep things interesting in 2018.
- Smaller practices will struggle to survive. Smaller practices will merge or be bought out by larger conglomerates or hospitals. Mega practices of 100+ surgeons in specialties such as orthopedics, will become more commonplace.
- Practices will get leaner. Surgical practices will begin to outsource more administrative services, like insurance verification, in-office scheduling, and even surgical scheduling. Virtual care, in the form of PCP and specialist consultations, will lessen the workload of clinicians, and alleviate (some) physician burnout.
- Major HIPAA crackdown across all players. Hospitals, practices and vendors will need to be even more careful. With all the best intentions, we predict more big HIPAA violation stories that will make the $155 million settlement between the Department of Justice and a major EHR vendor look like small change.
- Fax machines are not going away. Even with new technologies to send data securely, most practices continue to send their booking forms, insurance forms and clearance letters externally by fax. So 2018 will NOT be the year where fax machines are put in the storage room for good. (In fact, we still find practices working that ancient typewriter!)
- Heaps of alternative payment models will become available. Billing managers will be pulling out their hair to keep up.
- Consumers will not tolerate surprise billing. Patients will want to know what their charges are and more states will cap the amounts that practices can bill out-of-network. Highly specialized surgeons will no longer have the chutzpah bill hundreds of thousands of dollars for one surgery.
- APIs will lead the way to interoperability. Niche products requiring seamless integration will flood the market. Technology vendors will surrender to demands from consumers for greater access and integrability by adapting APIs.
- Predictive analytics will be hot. Predictive modeling will be adapted not just as a way to identify health trends, but as clinical tools when treating patients.
- EHR vendors will switch to the cloud or be washed away. SaaS and cloud-based platforms are not new, yet much of healthcare software remains glued to the local server. Vendors who don’t yield to this trend will be left behind.
- Artificial Intelligence will become mainstream. AI will pave the way for more efficient medical processes and better diagnostic support in acute care settings.
- Cyber attacks will persist, creating more talk around blockchain technology for PHI protection. Blockchain will largely remain in the R&D phase, though expect the first set of usable healthcare applications to come to market via tech savvy startups. The bigger players will wait.
- Improved communication between physicians and patients via mobile platforms. Increased physician-patient comradery will boost patient literacy and reduce face-to-face visits.
- Hospitals will begin to consolidate and downsize. Hospitals will reduce the number of staff and beds in an attempt to cut major operational costs. The number of inpatient surgeries performed will decline even with surgical volume increasing to stitch up aging baby boomers.
- Hospital systems will target and acquire Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs). With outpatient surgeries on the rise, hospitals will dominate the ASC market for new revenue streams.
- Providers will work together to focus on the patient experience. We’ll see a continued rise in multi-provider patient portals and patient-engagement tools.
- Machine learning will have a greater presence in the operating room. Surgeons will perform radically new procedures with unprecedented precision. Be on the lookout for these, as they’ll likely happen first, outside the US!
- Hospitals will further rein in supply chain costs. With stricter procurement rules imposed on surgeons and equipment vendors, expensive physician preference items will no longer be able to bypass the regular procurement cycle.
- Providers and vendors sharing with others. Physicians’ demand for standalone healthcare apps will require hospital and EHRs to open their closed systems.
That’s all for now folks. Cheers to the new year and all the sassy, flashy, and unpredictable industry changes it will bring. Happy and healthy 2018!